Flash Player 10 Officially Released

Mike Chambers posted that Flash Player 10 is officially live. This completes your 1-2 punch of RIA/game platform releases of Silverlight and Flash this week.

We have just released the shipping version of Flash Player 10 (Mac, Windows and Linux). You can find more information on all of the new features on the Flash Player product page.

You can download the player for Mac, Windows and Linux players from here.

You can grab debug and standalone players from here.

You can grab the release notes from here.

Flash Player 10 is great news. There are so many things in it from a new data structure (Vector), to local FileReference, to Matrix and 3D helpers, to speed improvements and video enhancements being able to play other video types and more (this was actually in a late version of flash player 9 as well but will be used more here). It does take time for flash versions to get out in the wild, about 9 months to where they are in the 90%-95% range where you can convince people to use it in production, but getting those skills now is good.  The scripting platform is still Actionscript 3 so anyone still making Flash Player 8 and AS2 stuff is now two revolutions behind.

Another thing I am looking forward to soon (next week) that is missing from both Flash and Silverlight, is the ability to develop for the iPhone, which Unity3D is dropping the iPhone kit on Oct 22nd. Unity3D has effectively taken Director’s 3d game development (hardware accelerated) market lead away this year and late last year and is a great platform. Director who?

Lots of great tools and platforms to create the innovative new applications, games and markets that are so needed right now. Go create!

Silverlight 2 Released

Silverlight 2 has been released. This is the real silverlight release.  The release last year 1.0 was just a javascript release and only had one object, the downloader, not even a text input.  But now there are real tools like rich ui controls, services support (REST), DLR (C#, Linq, ironpython/ruby) and Sockets which are much needed for games and game platform development.

There are also much better tools at this stage:

Bam. Silverlight 2 is out. There’s the expected stuff, like the final SDK, Expression, and Silverlight tools:

And from Tim’s blog:

But there’s also http://www.eclipse4sl.org/. Yes, that means you can code Silverlight in Eclipse. Details and progress at the Eclipse Tools for Silverlight Blog. It’ll be licensed under the EPL 1.0 License.

I have done lots of Silverlight initially when 1.0 came out as well as the agency I was working at.  We did video players, mini-games, demo apps and even the Halo 3 online manual at silverlight.net.  But it wasn’t really ready until now.  It still has a long way to go to really be an alternative to Flash but it is capable platform at version 2 for applications, mini-games and video apps for sure. But in the end it just provides competition to make both the Flash/Flex platforms and Silveright compete for developer support.

as3isolib Actionscript 3 Isometric Library for Flash/Flex

as3isolib is a great isometric library for actionscript 3 by Justin Opitz.  This is a lower level isometric library that could be used in building your own isometric gaming engine or learning more about the popular isometric view in games or other flash content.

From building basic blocks…

To constructing sprites and objects with individual iso objects with their own bounding boxes.


This sample shows a two piece tree, a common issue with sprites in isometric is where to slice them up.  This sample shows a tree with the leaves able to be in front of a character so that you could walk under the tree and be in front of the trunk but covered by the trees.  Essentially height is respected.

Sample code for the tree tutorial:

package
{
        import as3isolib.display.IsoSprite;
        import as3isolib.display.primitive.IsoBox;
        import as3isolib.display.scene.IsoGrid;
        import as3isolib.display.scene.IsoScene;

        import flash.display.Loader;
        import flash.display.Sprite;
        import flash.events.Event;
        import flash.net.URLRequest;

        public class IsoApplication extends Sprite
        {
                private var scene:IsoScene;
                private var assets:Object;

                private var loader:Loader

                private function loadAssets ():void
                {
                        loader = new Loader();
                        loader.contentLoaderInfo.addEventListener(Event.INIT, loader_initHandler);
                        loader.load(new URLRequest("assets/swf/assets.swf"));

                }

                private function loader_initHandler (evt:Event):void
                {
                        buildScene();
                }

                private function buildScene ():void
                {
                        scene = new IsoScene();
                        scene.hostContainer = this;
                        scene.container.x = 200;
                        scene.container.y = 200;

                        var treeTrunkClass:Class = loader.contentLoaderInfo.applicationDomain.getDefinition("TreeTrunk") as Class;
                        var treeLeavesClass:Class = loader.contentLoaderInfo.applicationDomain.getDefinition("TreeLeaves") as Class;

                        var grid:IsoGrid = new IsoGrid();
                        grid.showOrigin = false;
                        scene.addChild(grid);

                        var s0:IsoSprite = new IsoSprite();
                        s0.setSize(25, 25, 65);
                        s0.moveTo(50, 50, 0);
                        s0.sprites = [treeTrunkClass];
                        scene.addChild(s0);

                        var s1:IsoSprite = new IsoSprite();
                        s1.setSize(125, 125, 100);
                        s1.moveTo(0, 0, 75);
                        s1.sprites = [treeLeavesClass];
                        scene.addChild(s1);

                        scene.render();
                }

                public function IsoApplication ()
                {
                        loadAssets();
                }
        }
}

current features

  • simple scene creation
  • 3 primitive types
  • base class for displaying user-created content
  • plenty of styling option on vector based primitives
  • integrates well with a variety of tween engines
  • standard 3D isometric positional sorting

So get busy building the flash version of roller coaster tycoon…

Google Now in the Casual Game Ads Market

Google has entered the flash gaming ads market.  Right now that is pretty much owned by MochiAds for flash game devleopers at least pre-game ads anyways.  Advertising can be annoying but MochiAds has pulled it off where the ads are usually advertising other games or interesting things and it monetizes game development for Flash, Unity3D, Director and others, which is a win.  There are many flash gaming sites that are great fun that use ads almost stylistically like Nitrome and typically the ads are pretty fast when they are during the game loading.

Although advertisements in games have long been a scurge on gamers fun when they are trying to insert them into fat client, immersive MMOGs where it totally takes away from the experience, that doesn’t work.

What does work is stuff like MochiAds and possibly Second Life type sponsorships, where advertisements are almost nostalgic or fun and integrated. Developers and publishers have to make money somehow, the better the experience the more impactful and the more games for all. The key is making the integration a good user experience.

We shall see how Google plans to do this.  This might go along with their Lively strategy. The ad market entrance in games is possibly what started the rumors that Google was going to buy Valve for Steam, rumors which quickly died down.

Anyways, the one good thing about this announcement is advertisments go to where the eyes and crowds are going or already at, they are apparantly going massively to online web games and causal experiences make for easy advertisment integration. TV, Radio and many other industries have been supported by advertisement interest due to consumers using and buying the content.  So online gaming is just another one of those entertainment industries and it will grow further with this news.

haXe 2.01 Now with Flash 10 Support

Photobucket

Nicolas Cannasse has released haXe 2.01 that now has flash 10 support with a simple switch including the new Vector class.

Another very good news is that haXe has now complete support for Flash 10.
You only have to use -swf-version 10 as commandline parameter to be able to access the new Flash10 APIs (don’t forget to install first the FP10 from labs.adobe.com).

I think it is very possible for haXe to catch on big time, but it takes time as stated. Just remember that Python was worked on almost solely by Guido van Rossum for about 5-years, and then 10-years later it was picked up by Google heavily and the rest is history.  I think it takes 10 years for anything to really catch on from standards to languages.

code_swarm – Python from Michael Ogawa on Vimeo.

AS3 FVorbis Flash Ogg Vorbis Player

This project is stacked with cool, but is also useful, an ogg/vorbis player in flash/as3.  Arek Korbik at barelyfocused implemented a port for a pure Ogg/Vorbis audio library called FVorbis.  Check out the demo (need flash player 10). Groovy.

The name is: FVorbis. Which stands for more or less “Ogg and Vorbis in Flash”. That’s right, pure ActionScript 3 implementation of the Ogg and Vorbis libraries that require no kind of native support from the Flash Player. A simple Vorbis player implemented using the new FVorbis lib compiles to about 46KB SWF file. And that’s it.

To top it off the code is actually written in haXe, a favorite of the flasherati. This version was iterated from the Cortado’s JOrbis code.

Ogg Vorbis is a great open source audio format which is widely popular in game engines such as recent tools like Unity3D (which will be launching their iPhone dev kit on Oct 22 btw but I digress), so it is great to see it starting to appear in flash. Thanks Arek.

Flash 10 Security Changes Good and Bad, Mostly Good (Full Screen Input, RTMFP, Clipboard, Local Save and Load)

Flash 10 security changes requiring user interaction are pretty breaking but they are for good reason.  Still though, the user could be inundated with prompts much like UAC on Vista. But, it is necessary otherwise security holes can be troublesome with the flash player and the “sandbox” of the web.  Much like Java signing, Active-X acceptance, and thus local file access, these actions need some user approval, it is that liability thing.

But what is a bit lost in this is some of the new support specifically for game development and app development.

Support for things like RTMFP which is bringing UDP support to flash.  UDP and reliable UDP (ordered) is really needed when it comes to larger scale networking applications and support for p2p apps.  Games for instance, that are large like MMOs and highly interactive real-time engines, need UDP to be able to scale.  So this is pretty useful, yet it currently looks like it is tied to Flash Media Server.  It appears Adobe is staying ahead of SmartFox, Red5 and OpenFMS with stuff like this.

Another great move in the way of security updates for Flash 10 for games is the allowing input from keyboard keys while in full screen mode. All these games and apps look pretty sweet in full screen until you try to use them.  There is only support for “Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys” but that is a start.  Enough keys for a casual game.  But still most keys could safely be used it must be a multi-platform support thing.

Limited full-screen keyboard input

Currently Flash Player does not allow keyboard input when displaying content in full-screen mode. Flash Player 10 beta will change this, allowing for a limited number of keys to be usable in full-screen mode. These include Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys.

Flash 10 is getting local save and load, this is great for any type of online editor, game or application. The ability to work on a file immediately without the server round trip initially is great.  I hope this is extended much further to local save and load with very high limits, there has been some confusion on the file size limitations here. Ideally this would be extended much further if the product direction is right. Typically making apps or games with more than 5-25MB of content quickly become non-economical in bandwidth such as gaming assets due to browser cache size limitations (defaults IE=50MB, Safari 5-25MB, FF3=50MB), I wish there was a better way to allow local saving for long periods of time.  Almost installing apps via flash with extended cache, talk about killer app feature. Downloading 10 MB of gaming assets that you know will be there for the month rather than the day.

Paste events can read the clipboard.  Using the clipboard is another great useful tool in applications and online editors.

Data can be read from the Clipboard inside a paste event handler

In Flash Player 9, the system Clipboard could not be read at any time. With Flash Player 10 beta, the new ActionScript 3.0 method Clipboard.generalClipboard.getData() may be used to read the contents of the system Clipboard, but only when it is called from within an event handler processing a flash.events.Event.PASTE event.

So yes, the security user interaction changes do break current features but it also takes this platform a bit more into secure applications and game features from security changes, hopefully these features are extended much further but they are on the right track.

Blender to .as3 Exporter for Papervision 3D, Away3D and Sandy3D Updated

If you are exporting from blender to actionscript directly so you can get your models into flash as script you can use the Blender to .as3 exporter which so kindly supports all flash 3d engines currently Away3D, Papervision3D and Sandy3D.  Dennis Ippel made the Blender exporter a while back but the update supports papervision 2.0.

The benefits of COLLADA are nice but there are so many differences that you can run into trouble.  With the exporter it is a direct faces and vector export without all the bloat of DAE/COLLADA xml.  This works if you are only developing for flash and dont’ need to use the models in other platforms/systems/engines that aren’t in flash.

AS3 Papervision 3D Debugging/Stats with PV3DDebug

I have been doing lots of Papervision 3D for a project recently and needed to debug some placement and camera issues.  I did a quick search and found PV3DDebug by Jason Bejot and it worked out great and is a pretty sweet utility I thought I would mention when you need to debug Papervision or even for inclusion as a debug console in all your papervision apps and games. It is a good base for your own consoles or debug panels. It is also a great tool to help out with focus and zoom issues and understanding with camera placement.

The code is really easy to drop in and you can get lots of info on the PV3D scenes and camera manipulation.

Hardware of the Casual Gamer Revisited from Unity3d Creators

A few weeks ago the makers of Unity3d released some really valuable information about casual gaming and general hardware of users that play online games.  It was an interesting report and very beneficial to developers on the Unity platform and others.  We wish other plugin makers would do the same in such a thorough method.

Unity 3d creators listened to the market and have now posted updated numbers and information as well as a page that quarterly stats will be updated. Check the new, quarterly, hardware of the casual gamer stats.

I would have seen this earlier but I have been deep in a Unity 3d project myself :).  I am a big fan of all web based gaming platforms and Unity is almost a dream come true for 3d web gaming.  For the company to be this open that is a very good sign.

What can you do with Unity3D?  Here is a list of games made with Unity3D on the web.  The one great thing about this platform is that is was made for gaming specifically from the start.  Simulations and game development with Unity3D is very fun and productive. I still love Flash, Director etc but Unity3D development is now very much in my rotation.

Games made with Unity3D:

Hancock Movie Games

Tennis Stars Cup

Duckateers

Temploe (ninjas attack you)

RC Laser Warrior

Urban Race Star

FlashBang studios

TraceON

EPIC Tower Defense

InvinciCar

Besmashed (multi)

Global Conflicts

Phoenix Final

Doom Siege

Mario Galaxy like run (third one down)

Zombie Drive

Pocket Piglets

ChickenDemo

Castle Conquest

AS3 Zupko’s Reflections and Shadows with Raycasting in Papervision 3D

The Zupko show continues with reflections in Papervision 3D [demo].

Be sure to check out the shadow demo that this is based on:

After posting my shadow experiment, Patrick Matte posed a question wondering if I would be able to do real-time reflections in a similar manner. The next day I had it done, along with some nice iterations along the way: orthographic and perspective projection (I can release those later if anyone really wants them). I’ve been sitting on it every since and finally decided I would take the time to write a little description into how its done and give the code to those who are interested (and I fixed up some code for backface culling in the reflection this morning).

AS3 New Tween Animation Engine Called gTween from Grant Skinner

There is another new Tween engine from Grant Skinner called gTween, further demonstrating the fun in coding with AS3.  Frameworks and kits are duplicating much like the Python community because the language and platform are quite empowering.  Do we have too many Tween engines, maybe but be glad the flash community has this many and share, it only makes each iteration better.

Additional Features

gTween has a lot of additional features. I’m not going to write about all of them, but here are a few:

  • autoHide, sets the target’s visible to false when the tweened alpha is 0
  • autoReverse, reverses the tween when it ends (and plays it backwards if autoPlay is true).
  • smartRotate, rotates in shortest direction
  • supports using setSize for tweening height and width on components
  • support for updating properties like matrix and colorTransform automatically during a tween.
  • jump to any point in a tween by setting position.
  • loop a tween by setting nextTween equal to the same tween.
  • determine the state of a tween with the state and paused properties.

Download (Beta 1)

To access the API documentation, and download the latest build of GTween, visit the GTween page at gskinner.com/libraries/gtween/.

Here is a list of all open AS3 Tweening engines and base kits

ES4 Javascript is now ES3.1, ES4 “is no more”, Merges with ES3 Spec

Well, ES4 and ES3 battles are over for javascript.  ES4 being the spec that AS3 Actionscript 3 is based on.  From the two people that are most in this Douglas Crockford and Brendan Eich, Crockford states “ES4 is no more”.

It is more a merging of the two ideas (continuing ES3 javascript or jumping to a new and improved ES4 Javascript 2 spec).  But still hopefully it retains the fun of AS3 scripting.  Javascripting with ES3 is fun but it has some quirks that make it a bit needy of frameworks to make development faster.  With ES4 based AS3 I have really enjoyed the improvement and simplification of things like event handling and typing.  We shall see what happens over time.  Maybe the NBL of Javascript2 just isn’t going to happen, or it will slow down now.

Discussion at reddit about this

More from Eich about this

More Creative Flash AS3 Papervision 3D Games

Here are some really stylish and well done uses of Papervision 3D to make fun games. The people at Bloc recently launched Meta4orce, a unique interactive sci-fi TV show site with some great and numerous uses of papervision 3d.  My favorite is the tron like style and the tower defense game called shock to the system.

Shock to the system

Mako User Interface

Deadsphere Pt. I

and many more check them out at Iain Lobb.

Hardware of the Casual Gamer

Making great games, applications and tools using flash, silverlight or other tools that are emerging such as Unity3D takes great style, effort and knowing your target. We need to know what the end-user machine has at hand.  The Unity 3d guys put together a great post on the capabilities of casual gaming machines. With all the talk about flash 3d, unity3d and silverlight what level are you targeting and what group of people can actually PLAY your games as you envision.

Pretty much everyone knows Valve’s hardware survey – it’s a very valuable resource that shows what hardware the typical “hardcore PC gamer” has (that is, gamers that play Valve’s games).

However, the “casual gamer”, which is what Unity games are mostly targeted at, probably has slightly different hardware. “Slightly” being a very relative term of course.

Lo and behold – we have a glimpse into that data.

How? First time the Unity Web Player is installed, it submits anonymous hardware details (details in the EULA). This happens only once, and contains no personally identifiable information. It’s much like visitor statistics trackers on the websites that gather your OS, browser information and whatnot.

Remember, all this data is from people who installed Unity Web Player (most likely because they wanted to play some Unity content on the web). Hardware of standalone game players might be different, and hardware of your game’s players might be different as well. The data set is well over a million samples at the moment.

Check out the full stats here.

The most interesting stats to me:

OS Platforms

Windows 96.8%

Mac OS X 3.2%

CPU Core count overall

1 54.7%

2 44.1%

4 1.1%

8 .1%

Wow this one is surprising, but with the type of gamer that will play and download a quality new plugin to get to a game, maybe not.  They need to have the latest and greatest.  Multi-core processors have been selling for about 2-3 years so this is a continuing trend that will make Flash 3d and even plugins like Unity 3d better over the short term.

Also when you check it over at Unity Blog note the top cards, it is a bit painful if you are a casual gamer developer.  Not a decent card in the top 10-15. But that is changing rapidly over the next 1-2 years in this regard. But this also vyes well for flash based games that rely on dual core software rendered results right now as a decent constraint for developers to keep content painfully accessible to all states of machinery out there.

I wonder if this information is available on the flash player and public? This is specific to the Unity 3D plugin that is also a bit of a different market that is willing to install a plugin for better experiences.  With Flash it is usually preinstalled or auto updated for a casual user and might be different as Flash has a 98% penetration rate.  Or for that matter the Director users which would be more gaming focused which amout ot about 40% of internet users.  But as with the case of Unity it is specific to games right now and a small penetration rate, Flash is also apps, ads, tools, demos, interactives in addition to games.  Having this information on Flash or Director would be nice.

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